Landlocked in the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic generates far fewer Western headlines than its Congolese or Cameroonian neighbors. It nonetheless remains a country of strategic importance on the global chessboard – not just for its mineral endowment spanning copper, gold, and diamonds (with the latter accounting for half of the country’s export earnings), but also due to its geographic location, nestled between countries of considerable size and economic weight. Gaining influence in CAR allows foreign powers to strengthen their wider geopolitical presence in Africa.
No country believes in the geopolitical importance of CAR more than Russia, which had hitherto enjoyed preeminent influence in the country. However, the situation changed in December, when a private US military firm got involved with the administration of President Faustin Archange Touadéra, realizing a widely believed desire on the part of Touadéra to diversify the CAR’s foreign ties away from Moscow.